Khin Mar Aye: “The support has helped me to stay on my treatment, even through the difficult times.”

Khin Mar Aye, a 40-year-old woman living in the Ye-U Township in the Sagaing region of Myanmar, was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) when a community volunteer from The Union’s Challenge TB Project met her in a health education session and immediately recognised her cough, fever, weight loss and reduced appetite as symptoms of TB.

Khin Mar Aye was referred to the mobile clinic run by the Ye-U Township TB team with the support of Challenge TB, where she underwent sputum testing and chest X-ray screening. When the sputum smear showed positive, Gene-Xpert testing was undertaken, and a diagnosis of MDR-TB was made.

Khin Mar Aye was then connected to treatment and within two weeks was feeling significantly better.

The volunteer who originally helped get Khin Mar Aye a diagnosis has visited her regularly throughout her treatment, monitoring side effects from the medication and providing psychosocial support and counselling to ensure she’s able to continue the full course of treatment. 

Khin Mar Aye says “The support from the volunteer and the healthcare provider has helped me to stay on my treatment, even during the difficult times when I was struggling with side effects from the medicines.” 

She admits that taking long term medication can be frustrating but appreciates the necessity of what she is doing: “I’ve been sick for many weeks, but I have to care for my daughters and earn a living for us. My goal is to get cured.”

Prior to diagnosis, Khin Mar Aye thought she had probably contracted a cold or flu virus. She had never known anyone with TB and was unfamiliar with the disease. She visited the local clinic a couple of times and took medicine to help relieve the cough and fever. However, her continued deterioration in health soon meant she had to take a break from her job, and was unable to do basic housework, with her eldest daughter recruited to help out while Khin Mar Aye lay in bed. 

At first, Khin Mar Aye’s husband struggled to accept his wife’s MDR-TB diagnosis. Despite this, the volunteer undertook contact tracing in Khin Mar Aye ’s family, using sputum samples and chest X-ray screening to make sure the family were free from TB infection. The Challenge TB project helped Khin Mar Aye and her family with transportation costs, so they could visit the TB clinic and hospital for follow-up care.

Now Khin Mar Aye’s husband is grateful to the volunteer and the Challenge TB team for their involvement in getting his wife’s treatment. He understands what MDR-TB is, and how he should care and support his wife. For Khin Mar Aye, the road to full recovery from MDR-TB is long and hard, so the more motivation and support she receives, the more likely the treatment will ultimately be successful.

Khin Mar Aye is now in her 13th month of treatment and is showing a good improvement in health. She remains grateful to the Challenge TB team and local TB staff for giving her the support and encouragement she needs to stay on her treatment regimen to the end.

The Union implements the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Challenge TB project in Myanmar. The project conducts active case finding and delivers health education sessions in the remote Sagaing region of Myanmar, in collaboration with the National TB Programme. There are nearly 900 community volunteers who provide invaluable support to the project by transporting sputum samples, providing a support network for people on treatment and other affected communities, delivering health information sessions, and acting as liaison between communities and healthcare workers.